The Witches’ Dance

Witches Dancing

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Witches dance. Historically, folklorically, ecstatically.

Okay.  Maybe not all of those examples are of witches.  But when you think of the Sabbat, what visual do you flash to? Probably you imagine folks (possibly without any cloths on) out in nature, dancing in a ring.  Bonfire optional.  There is an undeniable witchiness about dance.

And that makes perfect sense to me.  Dancing puts me in touch with my creative, intuitive self.  Dancing lets me interact with the other dancers a primal way. Dancing raises the energy level, be it in ritual or rave.  I feels as if I’ve always known this.  Always loved this.

I recently had an “ah-ha” moment about dance when I fell upon a line in Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.  In writing about the concept of sabbat, he says “Begin to move towards, be moved by the blind magnetic blood.”

Oh.  Magnetic blood.

In a rite, when you slice with a knife or shift a cauldron,  you move the energy inhabiting the space.  You consciously change the energy flow to work your will.  You shod the stang with iron, to fix its energy in place.

You move your body, filled with iron-rich blood, in a ring.  Pacing, spinning, leaping in the same direction, like salmon swimming upstream.  Faster and faster.  Whipping the energy

up

and up

and out.

It makes perfect sense.  I’ll never again take up a witches’ dance without thinking about it this way.  Or for that matter, watch a parade, or the scene from The Wickerman where the children carry Death out of the village.  I now know a deeper purpose to our dance.

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And since I mentioned it here, I highly recommend Peter Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft.  Don’t be sidetracked by what you think the title is saying; read the book and find out for yourself.   Read it for it’s many seed pearls of insight, which  take root in and grow into unbidden understandings.  Read it for it’s lush poetical style.

Or better yet — as Grey proposes in regards to the relationship between the sabbat and the mythic landscape — enter into “The wordless book, which falls open and you with it, into the very last page.”

And whether you fall into book or dance, I leave to you.

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Crossover

Crossed Fingers

I’m not ashamed to admit it.  While the majority of the magical work I do is for the benefit my family, I tend to think of them as being mostly outside the magical loop.

But I’ve been thinking about this lately.

Earlier in the week, a friend and I stepped out onto the cool night grass, spun the Full Moon into a bowl of water, and bathed in it.  It was glorious.

(By the way, for those of you who are drawn to witchcraft, but feel you don’t have enough time for it, Spinning the Moon is a good one for you.  It has minimal set up, and could — however damply — be well done with all your clothes on in the space of a few minutes.)

I saved some of the water in my bowl, and later anointed my family members with it — my moist hand on their cheek during a kiss.

(Well … I guess my family are in the loop a bit.)

Do I make specific mention of these monthly anointings to them?  No.  And I don’t see that omission as any sort of betrayal.  My role within our family is to do those things I believe will promote our health and well-being.  I don’t ask their permission before serving up mounds of vegetables; nor do I feel any need to tell them when they’re bathing in the moon.  It’s all part of the package.

Outside of my immediate family, I’d feel differently.  Those relationships have different rights, privileges and duties, which might not include acting unilaterally in their best interest.   But I digress …

Later this week, family will be coming for a Halloween party.  Not coven family (we’ll be having a different sort of party later).  It will be my siblings, nieces and nephews.  We’ll play games, eat food, drink really good beer and coffee, and talk until the Eyes of Night Herself start blinking.

We’ll have pictures of our Beloved Dead out, with plates alongside their pictures, so they can share in the feast.  They’ll be toasted and remembered.  It’s not something we’ve specifically discussed as being Craft-related.  I suppose my family just assumes it’s close to All Saints’ Day, and how lovely to do it while we’re all together to share reminiscences.

(Ok.  Perhaps my family is “in the loop” a bit more than I thought.)

For dessert, we have a cake, thickly iced and done up with ribboned charms.  The custom of charm cakes is an old one  – think Kings Cake or the cake pulls of Southern weddings.  I remember reading somewhere that finding your fortune by charms in a cake at All Hallows was also a Victorian tradition, but couldn’t find a reference for that on the fly …

Our cake differs from others, in that there are more charms that folks present, and the charms that aren’t pulled are cast into a body of water.  Because when you make one choice you are, of necessity, giving up others.

(Alright.  I’ll admit it.  My family is so far into the loop, they might well be wearing the it like a bow.)

I must have become inured to just how much crossover there it between my lone work, my coven work and my surprisingly craft-saturated family culture.

I guess that’s why they call it the “Cunning Arts.”  You rarely see it coming for you!

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Bibliorgasmic

Snake, Magic Wand, Leather Books from Portrait of Ebenezer Sibley

We witches love our books.  And we love to buy, read, praise/bitch about, prominently display, lord over our friends and prop up one end of the bed with our many, many occult books.  Although not necessarily in that order.

Rarely in that order.

Be that as it may, never before have we been so spoiled for choice in publishers of our kind of books.

For our collective convenience and browsing pleasure, below are icons for a big handful of occult publishers.  (I should probably say here that I am receiving no recompense of any kind from these folks.)  This isn’t an exhaustive list; rather a lovely sampling.  Let the book ogling commence!

Ajnabound

Caduceus Books

Caduceus Books

Fulgur Esoterica

Fulgur Esoterica

Hadean Press

Hadean Press

Mandrake of Oxford

Ouroboros Press

Pendraig Publishing

Salamander and Sons

Scarlet Imprint

Starfire Publishing

Starfire Publishing

Three Hands Press

Three Hands Press

Troy Books

Wonderella Printed

Xoanon Limited

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Walk this way

By jgbernard at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgbernard/
Photo by jgbernard at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgbernard/
 
Set your foot upon the path.
Hold your breath, you can’t go back.
The Powers That Be have seen your deed
And call on you in time of need,
As you call them.
 
Walk the wicked widdershin
Landward, backward, down, within.
Raise the power.  Speak the Word.
Seal with sweat what’s in your blood,
The need to stem.
 
Go back now, the way you came.
But know you’ll never be the same.
Upon your brow you bear the mark.
Others see it, shining dark.
Others who this way have been.
 
–Trothwy, 2013

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Getting the Sight, Part 2: Rush Hour in the Otherworld

metro_at_rush_hour_funny_hd-1366x768

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We See Things.  And some more Things.  And pretty soon — like the clever monkeys we are — we start trying to piece together the patterns and understand the rules.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s helpful to try to learn rules instead of experiencing the journey for yourself.  However, over the years I have found it absurdly comforting to compare my experiences to the experiences of others.  In the back of my mind, I always wondered if I was … well, delusional.  Because, let’s face it, Seeing Things is one of the classic symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and dementia.

(One of the reasons why, in my opinion, folks with those conditions should steer clear of witchcraft.  If you’re already trying to separate what’s real from what’s not, adding an extra layer of what’s Otherworldly into the mix is just too stressful on an already taxed system.)   But I digress …

So these others with the Sight — not a very large group, just 8 or 9 folks.  For purposes of this article, I call them the Pool, because it’s good to have a pool of experience to pull from.  Below are some interesting gleanings from those conversations, in case you’d find them comforting, too.

Rush Hour

There is a rush hour in the Otherworld.  Although strictly speaking, I guess it’s really an Otherworldly rush hour here, in our world.  And really, it’s more of a rush season.  (Nothing like being definite, right?!)

No surprises, the weeks around Hallowmas form one such rush hour.  There are no sharp demarcations; just a gradual ramping up to a few very busy days, then a tapering down to the usual traffic levels.

And by “busy,” I mean (1) you have more sightings per day, and (2) you see more and different otherworldly things than usual.  For instance, instead of seeing one Cheshire Cat and one Tall Dude on Tuesday, you may also see a Diving Cat, something some of the Pool likes to refer to as the Greek Chorus, and something you’ve never seen before squatting across the inside of your front door, which you later realize is what the Spirit of your Door Knocker looks like in the Otherworld.

(I realize how totally crazy this sounds.  But for the life of me, I can’t think of how to describe it so it doesn’t sound crazy, and flippant is one of my default settings.)

What I found surprising — at least until I got a little deeper into Crafting — is it’s even busier around May Day.  All you experienced Crafters will be nodding your heads now.

Interestingly, none of us noticed it being particularly busier at one time of the day over another.

You See What?

In the Pool, some folks saw ghosts, some folks saw otherworldly beings, but no one saw both.

The folks who saw ghosts described them as being dead people who hadn’t yet crossed over to wherever the dead go.  They often float, drifting in and through furniture, walls, etc., They generally feel sad and lost.    The folks who see ghosts said the ghosts talk to them, in one instance with the ghost saying its name and where it had worked.

The folks who saw otherworldly things all agreed that such creatures didn’t walk through walls, and didn’t seem to be floating (although sometimes you couldn’t see what they were sitting or standing on).  Otherworldly beings tend to use doors, stairways and open spaces to move through.  When they don’t use a physical door or hallway, they seem to be using an otherwordly door, which has a fixed position relative to our physical architecture.  Outside, they sometimes move into a tree or feature of nature, but not through it as part of their line of movement.

For purposes of this discussion, I don’t lump ancestors in with ghosts, because in my mind, ancestors have passed over to some sort of Happy Hunting Ground.  While I haven’t seen an ancestor that I knew in life, at least one of the Pool has.  Ancestors look more or less like people.  Otherworldly creatures (which I think are probably what witches would call faeries, but that word is so loaded I can’t bring myself to use it) can sometimes look like mostly like people, but don’t feel human, as though your subconscious mind recognizes that something’s “off.”  Mostly otherworldly beings look like something you might read about in a storybook.  Well, maybe one of Neil Gaiman’s storybooks (think Coraline).

I’ve often wondered if that’s because I’m processing them through some internal filter of my own, or if that’s how they’re projecting, or even if that’s how they really are.  (So do you have giant eyes because you’re searching for something, or because you’re a Peeping Tom?)  Mostly I tell myself not to get hung up on that, because frankly I find it too disturbing to dwell on.

How it starts and where it goes

Those in the Pool who see otherworldly things agreed that their Sight started with seeing things in their peripheral vision.   Then things would pass through their line of sight.  It’s usually the movement that draws your attention, and you get a glimpse before whatever it is fades out or moves on.

Things start by appearing as a dark or light shape, like a solid shadow.  Some of the Pool felt the things that appear as dark solid shadows have a more wholesome feel, and the lighter solid shadows often feel sinister.

And then you’ll occasionally see otherworldly creatures in full color and three-dimensions.  Some of the Pool say at that point, they’ve instinctively cried out or spoken to the beings, because, let’s face it, you would, wouldn’t you?

It’s a sliding scale between solid shadow to full-color-3-D.  At some point, you’ll find your gaze is snapping to their eyes, because generally humans look for a face in things.  (Even buildings and sidewalk cracks, that don’t really have a face.)  Not everything you See realizes you’re looking at it, but occasionally you’ll startle an otherworldly being that suddenly realizes you’re Looking at it.  Which is weirdly gratifying to me, because they’ve startled me.  Plenty.

Sometimes you don’t See something, but you can Hear it.  I’ve never been able to make out the words, but the times I have Heard something, it feels as if I can almost make sense of it.

Most of the Pool agreed that if you’re trying to See something, remember to glance up, because some of the things you’ll see are taller than us.  Also, sometimes you’re seeing something, but it’s so large it’s hard to pull into your focus from your particular vantage point.

The Moment of Truth

Some of the Pool members agreed, laughingly, that they reached a point where they went from saying “I wonder if I Saw something?”  to “Shit!  I just Saw something!”

I believe there must be some continuity to the beings we’re Seeing, because a few members of the Pool have described seeing the same beings in the same general area over the course of several years.  And we’ve been able to fill in enough details for each other that we believe we’re Seeing the same being or beings.

During the busy season, the dog can See and react to something, that I can then glance over and See it, too.

Geography Matters

Some places, and some portions of a house, are busier than others.  The plane separating busier from not-as-busy often cuts through the house, as though it were following an otherworldly feature.  So the back half of the livingroom, back bedroom and courtyard beyond of one Pool member’s home was a busy area, but not particularly the rest of the rooms or courtyard.

Helpful Hints

  1. Alcohol doesn’t blur the Sight.  While it might steady your nerves, you’re not always going to have a glass of wine handy every time you See something.  So I wouldn’t recommend it for those of you who may be freaking out a bit over Seeing things.  Trust me, working on some sort of control is much better.
  2. It’s easier to See in the dark.  Maybe because there’s more of a blank slate to work with?  Turning on the light will help tone things down, but won’t stop you from Seeing.
  3. If something is giving you the creeps, it helps to move towards it, follow it or try to find and have a Look at it.  It’s almost as if it’s a bit of fun to give you a scare, and certain otherworldly things will keep it up as long as they get a rise out of you.  Take it from a girl who used to avoid looking up, going into empty rooms and looking into mirrors – the faster you try to look these things in the eye, the faster you can feel comfortable in your own surroundings.
  4. A sharp gaze will dispel something more quickly than a soft focus.  So if you’re trying for a longer look, work on developing your peripheral sight and keeping a soft gaze.
  5. Pick your battles.  You may not want to go around telling one and all you’ve got the Sight, unless you want an intervention and /or a stay at a mental institution.
  6. Most important of all — keep a wide range of friends and interests, so that you stay well rounded.   It’s not good to immerse yourself in metaphysics.  You’ve got friends and family that love you, a job to keep so you can afford a roof over your head.   Don’t go off the deep end.  Keep your magical life balanced with other, more mundane interests.

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Getting the Sight

Vintage Eye

Getting the Sight.  It’s a bit like getting your period.  Those of us who don’t have it, want it.  Those of us who do have it, find it’s messy and makes other folks uncomfortable when we try to talk about it.

My take on it all may not align with other folks’ views.  And that’s okay.  As with all Things Magic ™, even wildly different takes can all be “right,” and you should winnow out what works for you.  Find your own truth; I’ll be cheering you on.

Given that, here are my thoughts on it:  I think the potential for the Sight is within each and every one of us.

In some, it’s a full-blown ability that leads us around by the nose, and if we’re not careful we’re self-medicating with sex, booze and rock and roll.  Or spending our time in institutions.

Others of us listened and believed it when our parents said there is no “monster” under the bed.  As kids, we’re designed to learn and fit in.  So over time (and with a thick enough application of logic), we’re able to stuff the ability down into a box and explain it away.  It’s the miracle of cognitive dissonance – when we see something we can’t explain, we rationalize it into something believable.  And the more uncomfortable it makes us, the harder our brains will work to “fix it.”

So if you want to coax the Sight out and use it comfortably, it may take some work.  Here are some things that I’ve seen help:

1)      Change your filters.  Practice accepting what you see at face value, and being okay with that.  For this, I think the best exercise ever is Phil Hines’ What’s in the Box.”  You’ll have to scroll down to see the exercise — it’s under the heading Psychic Sensitivity Exercises.

2)      Recognize what stands out.  Our monkey-selves are programmed to recognize patterns, and to see when “one of these things is not like the others.”  It works when we’re learning to read, and it can work for you in this instance, too.

Start by making some type of acknowledgement every time you see something “significant.”  Don’t try to rationalize what significant is; just go with your gut instinct.  I developed the habit of making the sign of the mano fico with my hand, and kissing my knuckle whenever I saw something significant.  The first few days I was kissing my hand constantly.  If I asked myself “is that significant?”  then the very act of asking made it so, and I kissed my hand.  After a few days, things settled out, and my subconscious self got better at separating the wheat from the chaff.

3)      Sharpen your focus.  Not only do you want to See, you want to See clearly.  Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery is your friend here.  Practice his exercise on folding reality (pick up at the paragraph beginning, “in this exercise you should face a wide vista”).

4)       Install some controls.  Once you start Seeing things, you’ll probably wish the Sight came with an on/off switch.  Good idea!  Better install one.

What has worked for me is to think of my third eye as being the center where the Sight comes from, and to think of it as having a dimmer switch – like the ones on light fixtures.

Dimmer switch

I can dial it up for maximum “on-ness,” down for “off,” or anywhere in between.  (Which can be a great relief on those nights when you really don’t want to See One. More. Thing.)  I’ll readily admit, this sounds über goofy, but thinking about it like that, and practicing turning it up and down helped me get a handle on things when I really wanted one.  Who am I to argue with success?

Maybe it will help to get a refresher on your third eye:

The third eye – also known as the pineal gland – is nestled between the right and left lobes of your brain.  You can see it as the little red dot in the spinning skull above.  (Many thanks to Anatomography, as maintained by Life Science Databases(LSDB), and to Wikipedia Commons for making this image available for use here.)

If you put your finger on your forehead between and slightly above your eyebrows, you can imagine the pineal gland in your brain behind your finger.  Or you can imagine it peeking out the top of your head, from between the two halves of your brain.  Both are right.  The little bugger is actually light-sensitive, so it’s pretty logical to call it a third eye.  And I swear, if you think about it just right, you can make it wink.  (No, really.  Although no telling who or what you’d attract when doing it!)

Now that you’ve been reminded where your third eye is, with practice you should be able to work out how to turn the “volume” up and down for yourself.

5)      Make some breathing space.  Sometimes (and by this, I really mean Some Times of the Year) things get a little busy, and it’s hard not to See stuff, and you may really just want a little peace from it all.  So remember you can make yourself a little breathing space.  Here are some of good go-tos:

- For pulling out all the stops, Paul Hume’s Witches’ Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is classic.  It’s his adaptation of the Golden Dawn’s LBRP, using deities rather than archangels.   This makes a lovely clearing.  Please note, however, that if it works for you the way it does for me, you’ll have to come to terms with Things,  their noses pressed against the boundaries, looking in at you.

- The inestimable Phil Hines includes a simple but beautiful clearing in his discussion of banishing rituals/centering.

- Scylla at Root and Rock, has a good, Carmina Gaedelica-inspired Curse against the Evil Eye (and while what we’re dealing with here isn’t the evil eye,  this curse will clear the space).  While I haven’t used the whole of it, I often — with great satisfaction — use the end bit of it, which I pare down to:

I subdue thee  (mano cornuto, horns up)

I supress thee (mano fico, fig down)

I banish thee (flip the bird)

flip the bird

The options truly are endless.  Smudge, shake your fist, draw a banishing pentagram, whatever works best for you.

As I mentioned earlier, these are all things I’ve seen work, but by no means the only things that would.  If something else has worked well for you and you’d like to share it — or share your experiences in general –please feel free to put them in a comment.  Your thoughts may help others!

All of this addresses how get the Sight, but not what to do with it once you’ve got it.  That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and I leave it to each of you to chart your own course.   A word of warning:  you would do well to be wary of all strangers, be they Worldly, or Otherworldly.  So my advice is to:

-          Be courteous.

-          Be careful of what you offer or take.

-          Did I mention be courteous?

In the next post, I’ll talk about some commonalities of the Sight, as collected from a small group of folks over the years.  Until then, best of wishes to you all on getting your Sight!

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Nake Up

May Day is drawing near, so you won’t be a bit surprised to hear that I’m thinking about nakedness.  After all, I loves me a good May Day romp through the woods, what with them phalluses (uh … phalli?) and all.

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dotty-garden-lady-701

Naked is good.

Interestingly, naked isn’t just about not having any clothes on.  One of my favorite occult resources, Etymonline, has this to say about the origins of the word:

naked (adj.)  Old English nacod “nude, bare; empty,”

In the rush to May Day, it’s easy to overlook that “empty” aspect of naked.

I can take all my clothes off, but if I’m not in a receptive state — if I’m not empty — I’m not truly naked.

Okay, that sounded waaay dirty.

Let me try it another way.  For purposes of interacting with the Otherworld, if I’m not in a state of open receptivity, holding myself free of expectations, the quality of my connection to the unknown is going to be poor to none.

Which adds a new layer to the concept of “naked in your rites.”   For me, I find the perfect blend of nakedness to be:

  • having no clothes on (and thus no adjusting, fidgeting, stepping on hems or setting my garmets on fire, with that added pinch of naughtiness that makes my subconscious sit up and beg),
  • having my hair bound up (hair also being flammable, and mine being so very long a fair amount of wrangling is required to keep it out of the flame),
  • being a tabula rasa.  A blank slate.  Not that I don’t know what I mean to accomplish in ritual, but that I try to let the experience speak for itself.

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Tabula Rasa

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And what kind of witch would I be if I wasn’t curious enough to keep reading through *all* the entries Etymonline had for naked? As a result, I found this gem:

nake (v.) “to make naked,”

A wonderful new word to wield around the coffee shop.  Not to mention, the pith of a catchy post title, to lure other curious witches in for a visit!

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